Alexander Isak’s calm response to Newcastle United criticism and PIF – Kieran Trippier's defence
Isak joined Newcastle for £63million from Real Sociedad last summer. The Swedish international’s time at the club has been blighted by an injury picked up while on international duty but he has still managed to notch an impressive six goal return in just seven Premier League starts.
The 23-year-old has scored three in his last two appearances for The Magpies and was nominated for the Premier League player of the month award for March. His volley against Nottingham Forest last Friday was also nominated for the goal of the month award.
Now Isak has joined back up with the Sweden squad, he has faced further scrutiny about his move.
“The basis for me when I went to Newcastle United was the sporting aspect,” Isak responded when asked about whether his transfer was financially motivated.
“That’s what I value most when choosing a club. That was the most important thing for me. Then how situations look in different countries is not for me to answer.”
And when asked if he had become a sportswashing ‘tool’ for Saudi Arabia by joining Newcastle and visiting the country in December as part of a training camp, Isak responded: “I don’t know. The experience I’ve had hasn’t been bad but I’m not knowledgeable enough to give a detailed answer.
“We are owned by a Saudi fund and then it is not very strange that we can go there for training camps.”
Isak is not the first Newcastle player or manager to be interrogated about his decision to join the club. Head coach Eddie Howe has had to face several difficult questions regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record during his tenure while big signings such as Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes and Sven Botman have all faced the ‘financial motivation’ question.
"I can understand that the questions are being asked,” Isak continued. “But I also think that there should be an understanding that when you make a career choice, it is mainly what is best for your career.
“I was very happy with this choice [to come to Newcastle United] I made. I still am.
He added: “There are arguments for many different things because if there are double standards a little here and there.
“That’s where I try to stay away and really focus on what’s most important. In this situation it was what choice would be best for me.
“[The club] can provide some background information [about potential Saudi Arabia questions]. But I feel pretty confident about this question and give a completely honest answer about what makes me make the choices I do.”
Back in September, Isak turned-down a Swedish television interview at St James’ Park as Kieran Trippier stepped in and responded to the criticism instead.
“I don’t see why Alex should get a lot of criticism, he sees the ambition of this club to play in the Premier League,” Trippier said. “Alex, for me, has taken the right decision because this club is going on the up and this club will be massive in a couple of years so it’s about being patient.
"The criticism will be unfair but Alex took the chance like I did and he’s thriving off it.”